A few days shy of the papal visit to the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino on Monday called on the public to be vigilant against creating an atmosphere of chaos, stampede, panic, or any such situations that could potentially disrupt and wreak havoc on Pope Francis’trip.
Aquino pointed out that just the sheer number of people wanting to get close to the Pope could in itself present a threat.
Officials expect a throng of people, numbering in the millions, to show up at the concluding Mass to be held in Luneta Park on Sunday.
“There is no doubt that in a large gathering like this, there is a possibility of chaos even without the threat of terrorism, and an even greater possibility if someone plans to cause chaos. This shows the danger and the threat when so many participate in these events,” Aquino said in a message broadcast via television.
The president said that all it takes is one person attempting to get past the security cordon to set off a stampede, and used the example of “some people who may want to get a ‘selfie’” with the pontiff.
He urged the populace not to get in the way of the papal convoy, or do anything to hinder its way; referencing assassination attempts on Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict.
“If someone blocks the convoy by trying to get near the Holy Father and the convoy stops, what was a moving target becomes a stationary target,” he pointed out.
“I ask you, do you want history to record that a tragedy involving the pope happened in the Philippines?” he asked.
Meanwhile, security preparations are in full swing for the pope’s arrival in the Philippines on Thursday, January 15; with the Philippine National Police (PNP) staging a dry run of security measures.
Some authorities have called the visit a potential “security nightmare,” especially since the Pope has opted notti use a bulletproof Popemobile; choosing, instead, to travel in an open vehicle to better feel the people’s spirit.
Although officials have said there is no reported terror threat against Pope Francis, they are on alert for any attempt to disrupt his visit.